FLDS cult’s presidency fight appears headed to court

Utah state officials are blocking any further attempts by rival church leaders to seize control of Warren Jeffs’ polygamous FLDS sect, which likely means a judge will decide, the Associated Press reports:

The commerce department’s Division of Corporations has placed an administrative hold on the two legal entities that comprise the Hildale-based Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The hold is in place until May 2, according to a memo from the division’s director, Kathy Berg.

Last week William E. Jessop — the man Warren Jeffs once pointed to as the group’s true prophet — filed paperwork Monday to take legal control of the sect’s corporate entity.

While in jail in January of 2007, Jeffs told family and key sect members he had never been a prophet and named William E. Jessop as the faith’s rightful leader.

Jeffs dicated his message by phone — in a videotaped call — to a jail house visitor William Jessop himself.

When Jessop objected to Jeffs’ admission that he is not the prophet, Jeffs told him that ‘the Lord’ was ‘dictating’ the information to him.


During his phone call Jeffs said:

To Nephi, You can tell anybody who wants to read this message [garbled] that they can see it even apostates and gentiles that they may know that I have been a liar and the truth is not in me.  I am not the prophet.  I never was the prophet.

Jessop interrupted, saying, “You are the prophet.” Jeffs then said:

Just a minute — the Lord is still dictating.  This is not a test.  This is a revelation from the Lord God of Heaven to his former servant who was never his servant who is dictating these words at this time that you may know this is not a test.  I say farewell again, to all who qualify for Zion.  Farewell.

Jeffs also told Jessop, “I know of your ordination, that you are the key holder, and I have sent a note with my signature so that there is no question.”

Jeffs made his pronouncement just before he attempted to commit suicide. Later he apparently retracted his statements.

Though now in jail in Texas, awaiting his trail on sexual assault and bigamy charges, Jeffs last month re-assumed the presidency of the sect’s legal entity.

On Monday last week Jessop filed papers petitioning the Utah Department of Commerce to take over the presidency of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from Jeffs. At the time he told the Associated Press his action was not an attempt to take over the church, but rather the fulfillment of an earlier directive from Jeffs.

Right after he re-assumed control as president of the FLDS’ corporate entity last month Warren Jeffs ousted dozens of key leaders.

Since then there have been rumors that some of the ousted leaders were planning to challenge Jeffs’ leadership, either by launching a coup attempt or by starting a rival polygamist group.

It is not clear whether William Jessop is part of that group.

However, last Friday Boyd L. Knudson, the registered agent of the FLDS’ Corporation of the President, sought to cancel out the papers filed by Jessop earlier that week.

Now the Associated Press reports:

In a second set of affidavits filed Monday, Knudsen claimed some 4,000 members unanimously voted Sunday to support Jeffs’ presidency.

The papers also say the same group renounced Jessop as “not a part of said church.”

It’s not clear from the filing where the general assembly of church members occurred. The papers say church members stood to “raise their hands and voices” in Jeffs’ favor.

Utah Department of Commerce spokeswoman Jennifer Bolton said Tuesday she could not say which person is now recognized by the state as the FLDS president. […]

When disputes arise in corporations, commerce officials grant the parties up to 30 days to settle the matter, or look to the courts to settle the dispute.

If no resolution is reached by the May 2 deadline — whether by a judge or outside of court — the department would recognize those church principals in place prior to Jessops’ filing. Bolton said.

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This post was last updated: Nov. 22, 2013